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Alan Goulty

Ambassador to Tunisia

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Monday 10 November, 2008

Remembrance Day in Tunisia

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The foothills of the hilltop village of Takrouna, an hour and a half's drive south of Tunis, saw some of the heaviest fighting of the Tunisian campaign, including in the last days before the Axis surrender on 13 May 1943. Hence the 1551 burials in the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Enfidha , where we gathered yesterday in the annual Remembrance Day commemoration, as well as the Free French cemetery and Italian and Eighth Army battlefield memorials a little to the West. We were glad to welcome a hundred or so visitors from Britain to Enfidha, but sadly on this occasion there were no World War II veterans amongst them.

We wanted to remember and honour those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and the chance we have been given to build a better world. We have much to do on that. But our main theme was reconciliation and peace in all its facets - peace-making, peace-building and peace-keeping - in which so many of our colleagues and our servicemen and women are engaged.

The theme of reconciliation was beautifully evoked by our new Anglican bishop-designate in his homily on only his third day in Tunisia. It was also symbolised by the presence of the German Ambassador, who, with his Defence Attache, laid a wreath in memory of the War dead. Another European colleague, visibly moved, told me that the service for him illustrated in a profound way the meaning of the whole European project - reconciliation of former enemies. The graves among which we stood reminded him of the tragedy of war and the need to avoid reopening old wounds in Europe.

As we remembered our own losses we spared a thought for the Tunisians. What had they felt as foreign powers battled across their farms, a theme powerfully illustrated in Lillian's book on World War II military cemeteries in Tunisia? Had they hoped for liberation from French rule?; Or had they simply kept their heads down and pursued their existence as best they could whilst the conflict raged? We had no answers. But the presence of two Tunisian army buglers and (for the first time) a Guard of Honour reminded us of Tunisian tolerance and hospitality. Their support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who maintain eight cemeteries and graves in three other burial-grounds across Tunisia, has been exemplary.

Today the Americans held their own ceremony of Remembrance at the Carthage war cemetery. Tomorrow it is the turn of the French, and Saturday of the Germans. We shall be represented at them all, though Lillian and I leave Tunisia finally on Thursday. In their different ways these ceremonies give us the chance to remember, reflect and resolve to do more together to build a better world.

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Comments:

Dear Ambassador, your blog was a good piece of clear and thoughtfoul reading in the past few months. You will be missed by Tunisia and its people. Keep up the good work both you and Lilian. May the world become a better place some day. Cheers et bon voyage.

Posted by Sonia Hachicha on November 11, 2008 at 12:26 PM CET #

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